Nigel Adkins calls on Southampton to keep calm in promotion push

 

Southampton manager Nigel Adkins has told his team not to get ahead of themselves as they bid to join Reading in earning promotion to the Barclays Premier League.

The Saints head to Middlesbrough tomorrow knowing a victory will be enough to take them back to the top flight, and with so much on the line Adkins wants to keep minds focused on the task in hand.

"So near yet so far as they say," he told the club's website.

"All the focus is totally on getting ready for the Middlesbrough game.

"We'll debrief the game from the other night first (a 3-1 win at Peterborough) and the lessons learned from that one. We'll put that game to bed so then all the focus and our concentration will be on Middlesbrough."

Boro have not yet given up on making the play-offs, but their hopes have been hugely undermined by home form which has seen them win only seven of their 22 matches at the Riverside.

That has left them four points outside the top six with only two games left to do anything about it.

That will hardly intimidate the Saints, but Adkins does not see it as an easy game.

"We've got to focus on a very challenging game at the weekend against Middlesbrough," he said.

"They've still got aspirations to get into the play-offs, they need to win the game, we need to win the game."

Reading secured promotion with victory over Nottingham Forest in midweek, and while the celebrations are still ongoing at the Madejski Stadium, boss Brian McDermott is now targeting the title, starting with a home victory over Crystal Palace tomorrow.

"We know it's another opportunity for us," he told the club's website.

"It'll be a big crowd, a good atmosphere and most importantly we want to win the game."

Reading sit three points clear of Southampton, but have an inferior goal difference going into the final two matches.

Unless Middlesbrough can spring a surprise against Southampton to stay alive, the top six looks largely set, but the battle for position within the play-offs will continue as fourth-placed Birmingham travel to Brighton, fifth-placed Blackpool host Burnley and Cardiff, sixth, take on Leeds.

West Ham's 1-1 draw at Bristol City on Tuesday night looked to be the end of their hopes of automatic promotion, and they now head to Leicester on Monday night looking to lock down third place and the best match-up in the play-offs.

At the other end of the table, Portsmouth and Coventry are likely to have their relegation to League One confirmed this weekend.

Portsmouth host Derby and Coventry take on the already-doomed Doncaster at home, with both needing a win coupled with Bristol City failing to beat Barnsley at home if they are to postpone relegation for another week.

Hull, while not mathematically out of the play-offs, would need something of a miracle to make it, starting with a lopsided win over Forest tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Ipswich face Millwall and Watford travel to Peterborough.

PA

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